The 470,000 Australians living with stroke are at high risk of developing cognitive deficits and vascular dementia. There are currently no generally accepted therapeutic interventions for improving cognition post-stroke.

A potential candidate which has had an exemplary track record of safety and efficacy in clinical setting is growth hormone. Growth hormone plays an important role in the regulation of cell proliferation and survival of the brain, and its effect on cognitive functions. However, to date, only few clinical studies have explored the possibility of growth hormone to facilitate the recovery process in response to brain injury or stroke. While limited cases, these studies indicate that growth hormone treatment when used together with rehabilitation program promote a positive outcome for brain injury and stroke patients.

Accordingly, we decided to undertake the “Bedside to Bench” approach to investigate whether we can use growth hormone as neurorestorative therapy after stroke. Briefly, we treated stroked models with growth hormone subcutaneously, similar administration route as in the human studies. We found that growth hormone treatment significantly improved cognitive performance in stroked models using the highly translatable touchscreen assessments. We also looked into the model’s brains microscopically to see critical factors that influence the brain recovery. Histological and biochemical analysis suggested that growth hormone treatment significantly increased vascular endothelial growth factor, promoting markers of vasculogenesis within the brain peri-infarct area. Our results are striking, supporting the effectiveness of growth hormone therapy in facilitating the formation of brain’s vascular and neuronal networks, leading cognitive recovery after stroke. We are currently in the process of building critical pre-clinical evidence for pilot clinical trial in humans. The long-term goal of this project is to implement the usage of growth hormone as a potential treatment regime for stroke recovery.

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